In a huge step forward for animal welfare, Paris pledged this week to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, joining 50 other French towns and cities where this activity is already banned.

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, proposed the motion, which was unanimously supported by local authorities. The decision is not yet final, however, as the outcome will be decided by the French government at a later date.

This move comes only one month after a tiger was tragically shot and killed by its owner in a Paris street after escaping from a circus. Following this incident, animal welfare organizations increased pressure on French authorities to instigate the ban.

Although public awareness and widespread disapproval surrounding the use of animals in circuses is rapidly growing, only 19 countries worldwide have enforced bans on wild animal performances. In 2017, both Romania and Latvia voted for such bans, with Romania providing an 18-month “cooling off” period for captive animals to be re-homed.

In May this year, Ringling Brothers circus, famous for its use of elephants and big cats in its acts, closed down permanently, putting an end to 146 years of animal abuse. The reason was a massive decline in ticket sales following years of protests by animal activists, prompting them to retire their elephants. But by then, it was too late to recover.

Circus animals endure a life of suffering and pain. Threatened with bull hooks, whips, electric prods and collars that are too tight, they are forced to act out unnatural and humiliating behaviors purely for human entertainment, and spend their ‘downtime’ between shows chained up in tiny cages, barely able to turn around.

The Humane Society states that: “While circus promoters claim that trainers use only positive reinforcement, or rewards, reports prove otherwise. Circus training methods include beating animals with clubs and other objects and depriving them of food. Trainers sometimes strike elephants with sharpened hooks, which can result in physical injury. Trainers resort to brutal methods to try to maintain a position of dominance.”

Public pressure is the most powerful way to influence local governments and circus managers. You can help by avoiding any circus that uses animals in its shows, and speaking out about the cruelty.